This conversation happened in October, before the midterms, but it's worth sharing.
My husband Art and I have eight kids between us, ranging in age from 33 to 47. In most cases, I don't know how they vote or whether they vote at all.
For my two sons, I know one of them always votes. He's 41 now, and I suspect he is mostly conservative. The other, now 39, has never registered to vote at all. Last year I asked him why he didn't, and he said, "Oh, I don't know. I never pay much attention to stuff like that." I'm not naming names here, to avoid embarrassing either of my sons.
This summer, as the midterms heated up, I pushed a little on the nonvoter. I said, "I hope you will register to vote." He shrugged and said something vague. A couple of weeks later, I said, "If you will register to vote, I will take $100 off the amount you owe me." (He started a new business last year, so he owes me quite a bit more than that). This time he said he would, and the next week he told me he had.
In the middle of October I asked him if he had gotten his ballot yet. He said, "I think so. I'll have to check." I said, "I'm leaving for the winter on October 31. If you come over before then, we can go over the ballot. He said, "Yeah, okay."
In that same mid-October conversation I told him I wanted to draw up a repayment contract for the money he owes me, and would he please come over and sign it. He said he'd be over before I left.
On October 29 he texted me and said, "Mom, are you going to be home this afternoon?" I said yes. "I'll be over."
At 5 pm he arrived. I read him the contract and he signed it. Then I said, "Did you bring your ballot?" He said, "Yes." I didn't let him see my astonishment and relief.
Me: "Okay, are you a Republican or a Democrat?"
Him: "I don't know, but I'm NOT a liberal."
Me: "Well, historically, Republicans have supported smaller government and fiscal responsibility. And Democrats have supported social programs to protect the poor, elderly and disabled. Let's go through a few current issues and see what you think. That may help you decide who to vote for. What do you think about the Dreamers?"
Him: "Who are they?"
Me: "Say you have a buddy you've known most of your life. He went to middle school and high school with you. You played on the same soccer team for four years. He went to U Dub and is now working downtown. His parents came here from Mexico when he was two. Now there's talk about deporting him, and others like him, because he's here illegally."
Him: "Well, that's bad! He doesn't know any Spanish, or anyone in Mexico. He should sure get to stay here. But he should also do what he needs to do to be a US citizen."
Me: "Okay. Your opinion aligns mostly with the Democrats on this one."
Me: "How about the gun issue?"
Him: "People should be allowed to have guns, but not those assault weapons. And no one who is mentally sick or violent should be allowed to have one. And they should all be registered. I have a gun - traded my old one for it from a guy who died - but I've never used it."
Me: "Is it registered?"
Him: "No, I never did that."
Me: "When you bought your car from your buddy, did you register it?"
Him: "Of course."
Me: "Might be a good idea for the gun."
Him: "Yeah, I need to do that."
Me: "Okay, your opinion on guns aligns mostly with the Democrats on this one." He marked his ballot.
We went over a few more national, state and local issues on the ballot: state initiatives around the environment, additional police training; local issues like a small use tax increase to maintain the streets and sidewalks of the town he lives in. He had opinions on all of them.
Me: "From what you've told me, I'd say you're an independent moderate."
Him: "Okay, good."
Me: "When I'm voting for people, I want to have someone representing me who pretty much shares my ideas, no matter whether they're a Democrat or a Republican."
Him: "Okay, yeah."
Me: "Sometimes, though, I will vote for someone because they're in a particular party. For example, in the national election this time, I voted for Democrats for the Senate and for the House of Representatives, because I want there to be checks and balances in government. That means that if the president wants something to happen, there should be enough people in the other political party to think about it and have a say in what happens, so the president doesn't get too much control. It's in the Constitution, the checks and balances."
Him: "Okay. I get it." He marked his ballot for the Senate and the House.
Me: "Now, the judges on the ballot. Let's look them up online and see what other people think."
We did. We used the Washington Bar Association's website to get their recommendations. And he marked his ballot.
Me: "Now, you tear off the edges of the ballot, and you put it in this little envelope."
Him: "Okay." He did.
Me: "And then you put the little envelope in the mailing envelope."
Me: "And you sign it."
Me: "And you mail it."
Him: "Okay. I'll drop it in the mail tomorrow."
Me: "How about you put it on the counter and Art will mail it tomorrow?"
Him: "Okay, good."
As he was leaving, he said, "Mom, this was easy. I'll do it all the time now."
May it be so!
In our family we have one more voter.
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